My friends,

I have just gotten back from two days of camping with 18 teenagers from our after-school program. The world is emasculating, and sometimes a man needs to get away from the madness of the world, get back in touch with nature, and orient himself and his place in the universe by two days of not showering, sleeping on the cold ground, and peeing behind a tree. Usually in that order, too.

You may wonder what I mean by the world is emasculating. We men are now expected to be clean, to dress sharp, to smell nice, to be kind and sensitive, to sympathize with our mate and do “active listening,” to know how to cook and clean, and yet once in a while, to squish spiders. It is confusing. I say, either expect men to squish spiders and women cook, or men cook, and women squish spiders. Don’t you agree? Darn, this looks like the beginning of a post that might cost me the future governorship of Rhode Island, so I’ll stop here. Maybe I should altogether stop writing posts at 12 or 1am.

Let’s move on to a safer but somewhat still relevant topic. Recently I met Ted, who is the boyfriend of Marcia, a friend of Jameelah’s. Meeting the boyfriend of your girlfriend’s friend is really awkward. Really, the only thing more painful is flossing with barbed wire. It’s happened a couple of times now. “I want you to meet Amber’s boyfriend,” she would say, and in situations like this, known as a “double date,” I usually try to do what any sensitive and caring boyfriend would do, which is, of course, to feign swine flu.

Double dates are painful because it’s usually very fake. It’s like having a conversation with someone in an elevator, but for two hours. You both know there’s no reason to talk, and that you’re just waiting for the ride to be over. However, as an aspiring writer I am fascinated by people, and I believe I have mastered the art of converting the superficial into something more meaningful. Until I encountered Ted. First of all, his handshake had the strength and conviction of a recent dead frog. Not a frog that had been dead for days, mind you, since rigor mortis would have set in, and it would have been firmer and less clammy. It was amazing for a 40-something dude who stood at six feet eight inches or so.

Second of all, he was completely uncurious. While the women chatted in their corner, I asked him thirty or so questions about his occupation and hobbies and how he and Marcia met before I realized he did not ask me a single question in return. When I didn’t ask him questions, the two of us glanced around the room in silence. My friend Thao has a rule of Three, which I find to be very reasonable: If you ask someone three questions, and they still don’t ask you one question about you, they’re a jackass.

It was so dull that I insisted on refilling everyone’s tea literally 6 times, just I so I could get away from Ted. At one point, I wished that he was racist and would make bigoted remarks. “Y’all Chinese should just go back your country,” he might say, and I would say, “Did you know that we Chinese invented fireworks?” and he would say, “Oh, really? I didn’t know that. Well, I guess y’all aren’t so bad after all,” and we’d have a good laugh and become buddies. But he wasn’t racist. He was just dull.

So what is the point of that anecdote, you ask? One point is, life is too short to be dull, or to spend time with dull people. It is justifiable to dismiss boring-ass people. This is with the understanding, however, that most people are not at all dull. Everyone has an interesting story, and sometimes it takes lots of questions to get them to tell this story. Very few people are actually intrinsically boring. But sometimes, you will run into them.

So what should I do if I encounter another Ted on another painful double date? Send advice, because I know Jameelah will probably drag me to meet another one of her friends’ boyfriends. You can compose your thoughts, or vote on one or more of the following options below:

  1. Offer him tea, but slip in some Benadryl. That will knock him out.
  2. Try to get in on the women’s conversation, including, “Oooh, girl, you’d look good with this auburn shade of hair dye. I like the dark brown color too, but this chestnut shade is perfect for you.”
  3. Be blunt and say, “Look, you and I both hate this. Can we just agree to watch TV while the women talk?”
  4. Call him a racist and hope that will create a cathartic fight that would result in male bonding
  5. Try to help him develop social skills, such as, “You know, Ted, you’re awfully dull. When you talk to people, you should try to find out stuff about them too.”
  6.  Go to the restroom, take a nap, exit an hour later, and say, “Sorry. I fainted in there. I have narcolepsy.”
  7. Invent time machine, go back in time, prevent his parents from meeting and falling in love, return to present.

Ooh, I better go. It’s nearly 1am. I gotta do the dishes before Jameelah yells at me when she gets home from work tomorrow.

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